Athena YPLA nominees: Detra Trueheart, Danielle Kuroski
blog by Sarah Burke • November 07, 2012 @ 7:00am
Welcome back to Buffalo.com’s 2012 Athena Young Professional Leadership Awards nominee series. Today, we’ll feature Detra Trueheart of Trueheart Speaks Enterprises and Danielle Kuroski of the University at Buffalo, two of the eight local women nominated for one of Western New York’s top honors.
Detra Trueheart: CEO, Trueheart Speaks Enterprises
As founder and CEO of Trueheart Speaks Enterprises, Trueheart works to inspire, empower and challenge individuals.
“We are an empowerment firm,” she said in a recent phone interview. “We do consulting through speaking, life coaching and training. We work with women, girls and professionals, and our ultimate goal is to help people live life in and on purpose.”
Trueheart holds a strong educational background with a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Canisius College, a master’s degree in public administration from Bernard M. Baruch College and a master of arts degree in mental health counseling from Medaille College.
Along with her formal education, Trueheart’s career evolved naturally from her involvement in pageantry. “In pageantry, you have to have a platform—something that you are passionate about,” she explained. “My platform has always been about youth. I’ve always been passionate about working with youth and empowering them to be their best selves.”
Throughout her experiences working with at-risk youth, she began to notice that “not only did the youth need empowering, but their parents and the message that I was sharing to youth was resonating with a lot of adults.”
After eight years of competing, Trueheart created her own pageant called the Young Miss Buffalo Pageant: Scholarship and Enrichment Program, which has been successfully intact for 13 years.
“It really kind of evolved from me wanting to do my own thing and wanting to share my own story and message,” she said. “I wanted to let people know that they have what it takes in order to be their best selves.”
Trueheart credits a circle of positive individuals as her inspiration to succeed.
“Being 17, 18 (years old)” she said, “and seeing women who were 25, 26, and 27 who were doing awesome things really put the fire in me that said ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’”
Trueheart advocated a three-fold approach to leadership:
1.) Faith. “You have to have faith. There has to be a belief in something higher than you when you don’t really believe that you can do it.”
2.) Trust. “As a leader, you need to have good people around you. You need to have a really good, solid inner circle.”
3.) Positivity. “The other piece is about mindset; having positive thoughts and affirmations that speak life into you and that speak to the positivity, purpose and excellence that’s in you.”
Danielle Kuroski: program coordinator of undergraduate academies, University at Buffalo
As the program coordinator for undergraduate academies at the University at Buffalo, Danielle Kuroski works primarily with the school’s Discovery Seminars program—course of study that “offers a portfolio of one-credit elective classes for students,” she explained.
“The goal is to get students connected to a faculty member early on (and) help them feel like they are a part of the UB community,” Kuroski said last week. “We hope that, in turn, that will help them be more successful on campus.”
Geared toward first- and second-year students, “the classes don’t have more than 15 to 20 students in them,” she noted. “They’re really different than what the typical UB experience is like.”
Kuroski handles much of the administrative work for the Discovery Seminars. “I recruit the faculty to teach the classes,” she said. “I do lots of scheduling, and I help enroll students to make sure that they know these classes exist.”
Kuroski also has a large role in ensuring that UB students receive the best college experience possible. “I also do general programming to help get students acclimated to campus, help them feel like they are a part of the community and that they stay and are happy,” she said.
A graduate of SUNY Cortland, Kuroski knew early in her undergraduate career that she wanted to work in higher education. “I was a student-athlete, I was in student government as the student body president, I was in a sorority and an R.A.—all of the things that folks like us typically do when they’re undergrads themselves,” she said.
Kuroski identified a defining moment when the vice president of affairs at SUNY Cortland took her aside after a student government meeting and had a intriguing piece of advice for her: “Do you know you could do this for a career?’” That encouragement gave Kuroski confidence and helped motivate her decision to attend the University of South Carolina to earn a master’s degree in higher education.
According to Kuroski, those who are cut out to work in higher education “have to be very flexible, because students operate on very different schedules and different things are important to them,” she said. “You have to be willing to have fun, and I think you have to go into it for the right reasons, you have to want to help students…if you can be intentional about developing the skills that you know you don’t have but that you’ll need in the future, that can be very helpful to you.”
Kuroski practices this advice in her own life as well. “I sit down with my resume every couple months, and I think about what the next step that I want to take is and what skills I would need for that, and I find ways to build those skills,” she said. “That’s really important for you to do for yourself because no one is going to do it for you.”
Make sure you also take a look at our previous 2012 Athena Young Professional Leadership award nominee profiles, including the first installment featuring Therese Hickok and Hadar Borden and the second installment featuring Dr. Keli-Koran Luchey and Megan Burns-Moran.